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The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules for Business Success

The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules for Business Success

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The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules for Business Success

4/5 (1 valutazione)
362 pagine
2 ore
Aug 23, 2016


Intelligence, ambition, and skill will start you on the road to success, but without strong communications skills, social savvy, and a sense of appropriate behavior . . . you won’t get far. And in today’s culture where rudeness is unfortunately becoming more and more routine, a strong competitive advantage goes to those who have sharpened the forgotten but fundamental skill of courtesy.In The Etiquette Edge, readers will get a crash course in the entire field of modern business manners. From interviewing etiquette and dress codes to working in close quarters and communicating upward, you’ll master the essentials of making a great impression and building relationships, including:• The dos and don’ts of smartphone usage• Handling difficult conversations with tact and finesse• Checking your texts and emails for content and tone . . . before you hit send!• Creating a polished image on social media• Conducting meetings with poise and confidence• And moreYour coworkers and competitors are highly educated, ferociously go-getting, and great at their job . . . just like you. If you want to truly distinguish yourself from the crowd, focus on gaining the etiquette edge!
Aug 23, 2016

Informazioni sull'autore

BEVERLY LANGFORD, PH.D., is President of LMA Communication, a training, coaching, and consulting firm specializing in strategic communication and interpersonal effectiveness. She teaches graduate business communication at Georgia State University.

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The Etiquette Edge - Beverly Langford



The Case for Courtesy

Today’s workplace is a more complex environment than it was just a couple of decades ago. Flatter organizations, decreased power distance, and increased diversity have benefited companies immensely, but with those changes have come more confusion about accepted rules of conduct and interpersonal relationships. Added to that turmoil the inescapable reach of social media and new technology that allows near-constant opportunities for creating friction with others and creating a world where we are connecting but not really connected.

Customs vary, and language and social differences can make effective interaction in the workplace, already challenging, even more daunting. The old rules don’t seem to work anymore; we need new practical guidelines to avoid confusion or chaotic behavior.

Unfortunately, since the late 1900s, perhaps even beginning in the 1960s, many people have considered courtesy old-fashioned and good manners elitist. At the same time, many of us are increasingly frustrated with rudeness or social ineptness and lack of professionalism among employees, customers, coworkers, and strangers. Yet most of us will readily admit that our parents’ concepts of good manners don’t always work in the twenty-first century.


Many factors contribute to a person’s professional success. Knowledge, skill, work ethic, integrity, ambition—all of these factors are essential to achieving our goals. However, we make a serious mistake if we ignore the importance of effective and appropriate communication and behavior, social savvy, and commonsense etiquette. Failing to recognize how one can seize a competitive advantage by leveraging good manners and courtesy in the workplace can undermine our good efforts on the job.

When asked the secret of his success, the vice president of a major technology company once answered, "It’s quite simple, really. I learned to anticipate all the possibilities so that I could take action instead of merely responding. And, I remembered the things my mother taught me." The point he wanted to make was that these early lessons had taught him the importance of treating others well, whether we call it etiquette, good manners, courtesy, civility, or social savvy.

Without question, if you aspire to a management or leadership position, treating others with courtesy and respect is critical to building trust and credibility. And being a credible, trustworthy leader is a key factor in inspiring others to follow you. However, courtesy should not be viewed as a management tool implemented simply to manipulate others. True courtesy has as its source a genuine ability to value other people and to see their worth, regardless of their status.

Treating people courteously either out of guilt or because we feel that a particular person is important or can help our career is inauthentic, and other people will soon recognize the insincerity. On the other hand, you can learn to be genuinely courteous, and usually the effect on others and their behavior is the best reinforcement for adopting a habit of courtesy. In most cases, when we extend genuine courtesy to others, they respond positively to us. And having people respond to us positively is a great confidence booster. In turn, as we become more secure about ourselves, we become increasingly comfortable treating others well, and soon courtesy becomes an integral element of our character.


This book provides some commonsense guidelines for handling some common workplace situations in which knowing the right behavior can make the difference in how others see us and respond to us.

Whether you are an established manager, in a new job, or entering or reentering the workforce, a quick review of how to behave in a variety of workplace situations will help you establish yourself as a socially mature, valuable colleague whom people trust, admire, and want to be around.

Interpersonal communication is always unpredictable because we are each as unique as our fingerprints. Therefore, you need to judge the ideas presented here against the requirements of your own personality and those of your audience. Choose what works for you, and put your own spin on those suggestions that work for you in order to increase the chances of making your relationships with others solid and mutually beneficial. As you read the chapters, consider how you can apply some of these principles to your current or future work situations.


Think about the interpersonal skills you want to develop. Are you uncomfortable in social situations with strangers? Do you struggle with building an effective network of contacts you can call on when you need specific resources? Do you want to make a better first impression? Do you want to increase your authority and influence among coworkers? Do working lunches give you heartburn? Are you unsure about how to interpret nonverbal signals?

Pick out the topics or chapters that seem to fit your particular needs and focus on those sections. You’ll notice that each chapter ends with a bulleted summary entitled The Bottom Line, which highlights the major messages of that section.

Although our complex world doesn’t provide simple answers, we can always find ways to make interacting with our fellow human beings more rewarding and interesting. We’re all on this often exciting, frustrating, perplexing, exhilarating—and rarely ever boring—journey.

If we work together, we can all enjoy the trip.


To get started on developing courteous behaviors, take this quiz to check your courtesy quotient (CQ). The answer key at the end will give you an indication of your understanding of key issues of courtesy and interpersonal savvy and your proficiency in handling them. Some situations may depend more on good judgment than a widely-accepted rule. In case of more than one right answer, choose the one with which you would feel most comfortable. You may wish to retake the quiz after reading the book to see if you have changed your mind about any of your answers.

1. You are in the office on the telephone and another call comes in. You should:

a) Ask the person if you can put him or her on hold.

b) Let voicemail take it.

c) Tell the person you are talking to that you must put him or her on hold a moment.

2. You call a colleague and put your phone on speakerphone. Another coworker is in the room. You should:

a) Mention neither the speakerphone nor the other person in the room.

b) Tell the person on the phone that you wish to use the speakerphone. Mention the other person in the room, and ask the person on the phone if this is okay.

c) Tell the person on the phone that you are using the speakerphone, but don’t mention the other person in the room.

3. You have exchanged a couple of angry e-mails with a coworker who, in your opinion, is being unreasonable. It’s getting out of hand. You should:

a) Stop the communication and let things cool off.

b) Send one more blistering e-mail, summarizing the situation and how upset you are with that person’s behavior, and cc the recipient’s boss.

c) Change the medium. Call the person on the telephone, or go sit down and have a face-to-face conversation.

4. You’re presenting to a potential client. Suddenly this person’s body language turns very negative. You should:

a) Try to engage the person in some interaction.

b) Stop in the middle of the presentation and ask the person what is wrong.

c) Ask questions to determine what you said that was upsetting and attempt to rectify the situation.

d) Ignore the situation and finish your presentation as planned.

5. You’re delivering an important presentation that you don’t want interrupted with questions. You should:

a) Refuse to answer the first question that someone asks. The rest of the audience will get the message.

b) Tell the audience beforehand that you prefer to answer all questions at the end of the presentation.

c) Answer questions as they are asked, even though you prefer not to.

6. When communicating across language barriers, putting things in writing:

a) Should be avoided; it can insult the international visitor’s intelligence.

b) Can be helpful; it is usually easier to read English than to hear it.

c) Can be confusing; it is usually easier to hear English than to read it.

7. Learning to speak a few words of the language of clients, customers, or coworkers whose first language is different from yours is:

a) Generally a good idea, as the effort communicates respect for the other culture.

b) Generally not a good idea because they may feel patronized.

c) Generally not a good idea, because they might be offended if you make a mistake in vocabulary or pronunciation.

8. If you meet someone whose body language is much more outgoing and expressive than yours, you should:

a) Attempt to match it.

b) Not attempt to match it.

9. If you meet someone whose body language is much more restrained than yours, you should:

a) Attempt to match it.

b) Not attempt to match it.

10. True or false: A smile is an almost universal way of communicating goodwill and cheerfulness.

11. When answering a business phone, always answer:

a) With a simple hello. It sounds more approachable and less pretentious.

b) With your name.

c) With your name, department, title, and a greeting.

12. When others are close by—for example, in an elevator or on the subway—it’s okay to use your cellular telephone:

a) For any and all conversations because, after all, it’s your business.

b) For lengthy conversations, so you don’t get tied up at the office.

c) For short conversations of a nonsensitive or nonconfidential nature.

13. When you reach a doorway at the same time as a person of the opposite sex, the following rules apply:

a) Whoever arrives first should open the door and hold it for those who are following.

b) Men should still open doors for women.

c) Women should open doors for men to prove they are no longer oppressed.

d) Always open and hold the door for someone of either sex if that person has his or her hands full.

14. When exiting an elevator and a more senior person is toward the back, always:

a) Step aside to let that person exit first.

b) Exit first if you are closest to the door.

15. You have just heard a coworker in the cubicle next to yours speak rudely to a client on the telephone. You should:

a) Wait until the call is finished, then tell the person that the behavior is unacceptable.

b) Tell your boss.

c) Respect your coworker’s privacy and refrain from commenting.

16. When having a business lunch, who pays?

a) A business lunch is always Dutch treat.

b) You always pay for a client’s lunch.

c) You never pay for a client’s lunch. It’s insulting.

d) Whoever invited the other person to lunch pays.

17. On a dress-down day, which of these items of clothing are generally considered inappropriate?

a) Khaki slacks.

b) Solid T-shirts.

c) Sweatpants.

d) Baseball caps.

e) Polo-type shirts.

f) Loafers without socks.

g) Thong sandals.

h) Jeans.

18. You are in a meeting with a client and several of your colleagues and you realize your boss’s fly is unzipped. You should:

a) Make a joke about it and put everyone at ease.

b) Tell him immediately, even if you don’t know him well.

c) Ask someone who knows him better to mention it.

19. Use social media to:

a) Let all your connections know what’s going on at work.

b) Share pictures of your colleagues so that everyone gets to know each other.

c) Let everyone know exactly how you feel about people and situations.

d) Consistently present yourself in the way you want others to perceive you.

20. If you are managing a meeting and there is an adversarial relationship among the parties, try to make sure that:

a) People sit with those with whom they agree.

b) The seating is mixed to encourage open dialogue and discourage an adversarial environment.


1. b

2. b

3. c

4. a, c

5. b

6. b

7. a

8. b

9. a

10. true

11. b

12. c

13. a, d

14. b

15. b

16. d

17. c, d, g, h

18. c

19. d

20. b



Everyday Courtesy as a Success Factor


Manners in the Twenty-First Century

Finally it arrived: the new millennium. For most of us, it was full of hope and promise and fresh beginnings, but it was also filled with dire predictions and omens. Now, more than a decade later, after all the hoopla, hype, and histrionics subsided, we have passed through the gateway into a new age and have settled in to being twenty-first-century savvy. And with the traumatic and gut-wrenching events that have ushered in this new era, we may feel an ongoing urge to reflect and take stock. The picture is not all that pretty.

We see contentious dispositions and adversarial approaches to one another played out in the barrage of 24-hour news, as politicians at the highest level can no longer discuss differences civilly and issues quickly turn personal. We have become accustomed to extreme polarization and often vitriolic language and accusations from leaders and opinion makers about the people on the other side. And many of the rest of us eagerly take our cue from these politicians, celebrities, and the media. In short, rampant rudeness prevails at all levels of society—from the halls of Congress to the checkout counter to the school playground.

Are we making any progress in the civility department? Are we ruder than the generations that have gone before us, or do we still value courtesy and considerate behavior? Granted, we no longer draw and quarter people in the town square, but we gleefully pillory our fellow citizens in the media—and through social media, where cyberbullying has become an epidemic. We bemoan the rudeness of others, yet can easily justify our own actions when we are surly with a salesperson, cut off another driver on the highway (because our time is more important and we’re late), or walk past coworkers without greeting them.

Indeed, our society abounds with plenty of examples of rudeness. A marketing communications manager reproached a sandwich maker at a delicatessen for ignoring her polite thank you at the end of her transaction. She mentioned that the proper response to thank you is usually you’re welcome. Rather than being embarrassed about his lack of civility, the deli employee came from behind the counter and followed the customer across the store, spewing invectives about her having the audacity to call him out on his behavior.

As a society, particularly in highly populated areas, we’re touchy, brash, and easily rankled, and although we claim to value considerate behavior, we’re quick to respond in kind when we experience an affront. The word edgy has become something of a compliment, when it used to mean that someone had consumed too much caffeine. Furthermore, we enthusiastically adopt the outrageous, the cantankerous, and the pugnacious habits of our culture’s icons. In short, we spend a lot of time bemoaning the death of courtesy and not much energy trying to revive it.


In their 2009 book on the high cost of incivility, Christine Pearson and Christine Porath assert that incivility is damaging to businesses in a number of ways. Their study at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business highlighted as uncivil such behavior as not responding to e-mail or voice mail, habitually interrupting, backstabbing, shouting at someone, and rudeness that ultimately escalates into threatened or actual violence.

The study found that rude behavior at work is on the rise and hitting corporations where it hurts—in the balance sheet. A survey of 1,400 workers revealed that 12 percent of people who experience chronic rude behavior at work quit their jobs and 22 percent deliberately decrease their work effort. The survey found that men are seven times more likely than women to be rude at work. Rampant incivility goes far beyond political correctness or etiquette issues. Incivility makes open communication and teamwork virtually impossible.

And the situation is only getting worse. In a January 2013 Harvard Business Review article, Pearson and Porath showed that one-half of all employees they surveyed in 2011 reported being on the receiving end of rudeness at least once a week—compared to only one-quarter of employees surveyed in 1998. Another recent study showed that both high performers and low performers were targets for workplace bullies because they broke the boundaries of average performance.

This survey by Public Agenda, a nonpartisan opinion research organization, revealed that eight in ten Americans surveyed say a lack of respect and courtesy is not only a serious problem, but it has become worse in recent years. Respondents cited the way they are treated by business and customer service employees as inexcusable, and almost half of those surveyed have walked out of a business because of bad service.

Even more disturbing, notes the survey, is discourtesy from individuals; complaints include inconsiderate drivers, rude cell phone users, and the use of profanity. Equally troubling is the impolite and even aggressive conduct of children, which, although the survey holds parents primarily to blame, is at least in part learned from popular culture and the entertainment media.

When asked about the perceived causes of this increased rudeness, many people suggested crowding, too much anonymity, and the pressures of our high-octane lives, coupled with a declining sense of community and a general increase in selfishness and callousness.

In the workplace, the results of this phenomenon manifest themselves on the bottom line. According to a Chicago-area consulting firm specializing in corporate behavior, ignoring bad behavior in the workplace can be a costly mistake. The negative effects of workplace incivility can include the following, to name just a few:

Employee-generated lawsuits

Declining commitment to the organization

Decreased effort

Increased tardiness and absenteeism

Deliberate damage to equipment and property

Termination of employment to avoid dealing with instigators

Poor customer service

Low morale

Physical violence

Just as serious as the toll on organizational effectiveness is the toll that rudeness takes on people themselves. Discourteous behavior has a negative impact on the recipient of the behavior and on the person whose behavior is impolite and disrespectful. Whether the misbehavior comes from ignorance or from a genuine combativeness, the results are the same: The person loses credibility and alienates others—damage that, once created, is difficult to reverse.

We sometimes justify rudeness because it seems to be expedient, unlike courtesy, which may seem to take too much time and effort. On the contrary, in many cases, being rude takes just as much energy as courtesy—sometimes more. For example, you will expend more force screaming at the driver who changed lanes in front of you than you will backing off a little and letting that person into your lane. Rather than becoming irate, try to empathize. Consider that perhaps the person is in unfamiliar surroundings and just realized that his or her exit is immediately ahead. On the other hand, the person may truly be an inconsiderate driver. But either way, you have more to lose by reacting rudely and angrily.


If indeed we believe that politeness and social rituals have a civilizing effect on the population, then we all need to accept responsibility for keeping civility alive and well in the twenty-first century. Here are a few suggestions.

Consider Your Motives

Concerns about courtesy should be positively motivated. Throughout history, the advocacy of extreme manners and protocol was often a thinly veiled ploy to exclude and feel superior to others who didn’t know the protocol. In fact, the words etiquette and ticket have the same etymology: the Old French estiquet. And, as we well know, the purpose of a ticket is to let some in and keep others out. If you encounter a rule or behavior that seems elitist, out of date, or just plain silly, use your good judgment. True courtesy benefits everyone. Its aim is not to embarrass or catch someone in a mistake.

Consider the Needs of Others

One reason we’re not better at practicing civility is that it often involves putting someone else’s interests ahead of our own—opening a door, stepping aside to let someone pass, turning off our cell phones during meetings. Courtesy requires a fair amount of unselfishness, a quality too often in short supply.

Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of our social structure is the constant tension between asserting individual rights and maintaining respect for others. To some of us, deferring to others seems to equate to giving up one’s freedom and rights. We feel less powerful and somehow out of control when someone goes ahead of us or takes a better seat.

We find it even more difficult to maintain civility when someone is rude to us. Our natural instinct is to defend ourselves by returning the rudeness. Unfortunately, this action begins an unpleasant cycle of revenge. When we return someone else’s rudeness with our own, a minor insult can escalate into a serious problem—perhaps even leading to physical violence. Our first reaction to defend ourselves and our honor ultimately makes us party to the behavior we were critical of to begin with.

Treat Others as You’d Want to Be Treated

Practically every civilization and religion has some version of this principle. Consistently applied, that simple axiom covers a lot of territory. Most people find it difficult to be rude to someone who refuses to participate in the rudeness.

Refuse to Return Rudeness

To take this approach, you have a couple of options. On the one hand, you can behave as though the incivility didn’t occur, which works well for minor offenses. People find it difficult to continue unacceptable behavior if the other person responds in a way that affirms the dignity of both parties and attempts to move the encounter in a more positive direction. Or you can politely acknowledge the rudeness. If, for example, a coworker snaps at you when you request some information, you might

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  • (4/5)
    Don't let the size of this book fool you. Even though it is a small book, there's a wealth of information listed here. This book gives you details to navigate today's complex business world. It even gives a concrete definition of "corporate casual". I suggest that anyone who is entering or re-entering the workforce buy this book.